Breeze is helping local NYC restaurants get back on their feet in a post-pandemic world with free food photos.
It's no secret New York restaurants were nearly leveled at the height of the pandemic. Shorter-than-typical hours were posted, limited seating, no indoor dining, economic fears, social unrest, and a dwindling population were part of the laundry list of issues restaurateurs had to deal with over the majority of 2020 and now most of 2021.
That's exactly why QR-code menu platform Breeze launched a campaign to support New York City restaurants in their post-pandemic recovery by offering free professional photography. Restaurants can use the photos on their websites, in marketing materials, on social media, or however else would be helpful as they re-open, re-launch, or promote new offerings.
"I stayed downtown during the entire pandemic, and the lifelessness was surreal," shares Breeze founder Stefan Kouumdjiev. "It felt like I was on an empty film set. It makes you realize how much of New York's distinct energy stems from the restaurants and small businesses. Watching them gradually come back to life over the past few months has been heartwarming. But in the midst of the resurging energy, it can be easy to forget that many restaurants are still suffering residual effects from the pandemic. And worse, many of the places we loved are sadly not here to enjoy this recovery."
In fact, New York restaurants are still struggling to attract diners at the same (or even similar) levels as they did pre-COVID, with reservations plummeting more than 30 percent compared to 2019 — even as the rest of the nation shows bubbly, bright signs of recovery. Typically red states like Florida, Texas have actually seen hospitality and food industry growth, as well as Nevada and Virginia (perhaps against the odds). They all saw at least a 10 percent increase in restaurant bookings on Memorial Day compared to the same time two years prior, while New York City-based eateries were faced with a continuing 34 percent deficit according to OpenTable.
"We lived on the Upper East Side for 11 years before the pandemic hit," shares New Yorker Dana Herven. "We met here, married here, and we even got our start in the bar and restaurant business as early twenty-somethings. But we had kids a few years ago and realized after the first few months of lockdown that the city was no longer sustainable for young families. The allure had faded. We moved up to Westchester and aren't looking back. But that also means the three to four times a week we ate out, plus all those lunches we'd grab on the go during the workday, just aren't part of the budget anymore. I think there are loads of people like us. The regular-people money just... left."
It's a harsh reality Stefan isn't taking sitting down, and he's been doing his best to add value and freebies to the restaurant industry.
"Breeze has been taking food pictures for all of our clients, many of which signed up in response to the pandemic. And even though the pictures were a small, incidental part of our product, it was heartwarming to see the moments of genuine happiness, however brief, on restaurateurs' faces when they saw the simple beauty of a well-taken photo of one of their menu items," he shares. "It's as though they briefly forgot about the pandemic's woes and were reminded of why they chose the food industry to begin with. Pretty food photos will not solve restaurants' deep challenges. We know that. But showing restaurants that their community supports them, and letting them appreciate and showcase their craft, can be enough to make them remember why it's all worth it."
Restaurant operators and owners can sign up at www.breezetab.com/nyc
We'd love to hear your thoughts on New York City's hospitality recovery and #reopening in the comments section below.